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Bloat Prevention Update

Remember how I put a stopwatch to Ginko and timed his speed eating? Well, I have good news and one clarification about our ongoing bloat prevention plans here at Chez Champion of My Heart.

Slower, Happier, Safer Eating

Canine Genius "Leo" Toy

When last we checked, Ginko snarfed his meals from a stainless steel dog bowl in right around 2 minutes, with or without water added.

Without water added, however, Ginko seemed to breathe funny, really suck in his stomach, and it really freaked me out.

SO, while it’s something I said I would do with my “next generation” of dogs, I’ve gone ahead and transitioned both Lilly and Ginko to activity feeders (aka food-delivery toys) to slow down their eating and increase meal interest/challenge.

Last time I clocked Ginko, it took him around 8-10 minutes to scavenge his dry kibble from a Canine Genius.

Much better. Yes?

I’ll have to get some additional food-delivery toys so that I can rotate them as recommended in this article I wrote about Making Dogs Think, but Lilly usually eats out of a Tug-a-Jug or a Buster Cube (cube only … if Tom isn’t home … because the noise of it banging around on our tile floors drives him batty).

I worried that the dogs wouldn’t understand this was a meal without the bowl. I thought maybe they’d look at me like they’d been robbed or something, but both really seem to enjoy eating this way.

Since eating slower is, I think, a good idea for bloat prevention, good digestion, and mental stimulation … I’m glad we ended up here.

One Adjustment to Feeding Plan

We did, however, have to make one adjustment to their feeding plan. Lilly eats in my office now. Ginko eats in the kitchen.

You see, while neither would ever DREAM of approaching the other’s food bowl during a meal, they see the toys quite differently. I don’t want either of them stealing food from the other, and I certainly don’t want them getting into a resource tussle.

So, we just make sure they have plenty of space to themselves … since they were crossing paths pretty often in process of shaking the food out in those first few days.

Clarification: Water on Dog Food and Bloat Risk

All this change in feeding habits came as a result of some bloat articles I wrote on my Dog Food Dish blog that talked about how adding water to dog food increased the risk of bloat in large- and giant-breed dogs by 320%.

I made the point more clearly over there, but not here on Champion of My Heart. My apologies for that. I’ll go back and fix those Champion of My Heart posts, and I’ll clarify here. (Thanks to our friends at Dream Valley Ranch for pointing out the gap.)

The 320% increase in bloat risk requires BOTH putting water on dry dog food AND that the food contains CITRIC ACID.

Either way, for me, the study freaked me out because our old food (and I assumed our new food) contained citric acid. Many dog foods do.

To dig further into the research that led to this warning, Sue at Dream Valley Ranch contacted the study’s author. He confirmed that it is not the “moistening” of dry food alone, but moistening in the presence of food with citric acid in it.

Sue also asked if the researcher knew which version of watering down food was at issue. In other words, just a little water, food floating, or food completely softened after soaking in water.

His reply? “We did not explore the degree of moistening since there was no way we could quantify this based on owner reports.”

Your Own Water Decision

So, as long as your dog’s food does NOT contain citric acid, I suppose that means you can make whatever water, no water, decision works best for your dogs.

I’ll be writing about it in more detail on my other blog in the coming weeks, but be sure to check your dog food label carefully … not only for actual CITRIC ACID listed on the ingredient panel, but also for ingredients that are naturally high in citric acid, including many berries.

Our new food contains ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), but not citric acid. I need to go back and check for ingredients that might contain citric acid.

If you get a chance, check your label and report back. Does your dog’s food contain citric acid?

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Mary Haight - October 26, 2010

Thanks for the informative post, Roxanne, and the clarification about the combination of water and critic acid stoking bloat incidents. I home cook for Tashi, but I do add Dr Harvey’s mixed cut vegetables – no fruit, but have used Sojo’s organic vegetables and fruit so if I choose to buy that product again, I will be sure to check the label:) I wonder, I heard that raised feed bowls can cause bloat in older dogs, have you?

Karen - October 26, 2010

Thanks for the great article. I have a 9 pound yorkie puppy who eats extremely fast. So far, we have been able to put a tennis ball in his food bowl to slow him down. Somehow he hasn’t thought to take the ball out and he eats around it! With him, I’m not so worried about bloat as I am upset stomach.

Shiba Tail - October 25, 2010

Great article on Making Dogs Think! Engaging a dog’s mind is so important and you offer some great ways to do it. I agree that stuffing food in a toy is a great way to get their minds working, and I do that with my dogs quite often. But, I’ve never thought of it as a way of solving bloat. Interesting!

KB - October 25, 2010

Thanks for the clarification about citric acid and water! The buster cubes and the tug-a-jug both drive me batty because all our floors are hard. I’m going to check out the toy you have shown. Maybe it would work well for our kibble-eating dog, R.

Crystal (and Maisy) - October 25, 2010

My dog eats exclusively out of food toys. In fact, if I try to feed her out of a bowl, she’ll happily eat it, and then go over to a toy (she has billions!) and nudge at it, then look at me pointedly.

Neither of her kibbles have citric acid- she eats both Taste of the Wild and Wellness CORE.

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